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Pets Are Big Business According to New Acosta Report

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Research finds one in five pet owners have changed buying behaviors for convenience

More than three quarters of Americans own a pet and they continue to spend more on them each year. Pets Are Big Business, a new report from Acosta, a leading full-service sales and marketing agency in the consumer packaged goods industry, explores the booming pet care industry and highlights consumer shopping habits for caring for these furry friends.

“Pet care is a rapidly growing $75 billion industry, with pet food sales up more than six percent versus last year,” said Colin Stewart, Executive Vice President, Business Intelligence at Acosta. “With this growth, we’re seeing spending behaviors shift to reflect more hassle-free buying options and more interest in healthy options for their pets that include real, natural ingredients. As pet ownership continues to soar, retailers should capitalize on industry growth by honing in on their competitive advantages and competing from all directions — price, assortment and convenience.”

Acosta’s research provides insight into pet ownership by generation as well as purchasing habits and factors that drive decision-making when it comes to pet food.

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Pet Ownership by Generation

  • Pet ownership is most common among Millennials and Gen X with 59% of households across both generations owning at least one dog.
  • Millennials are also the generation most likely to own multiple dogs (42% of households), while Gen X is most likely to own multiple cats (53% percent of households).
  • Most pet owners adopted their pet through a rescue or shelter. Taking in a stray is a very common method of adoption among cat owners specifically, especially among Boomers.

Pet Shopping Trends

  • Dog owners want real and natural ingredients, especially Millennials.
  • The majority of pet owners purchase over-the-counter flea/tick products and are most concerned about efficacy.
  • Shoppers primarily purchase pet food at mass and pet retailers, and shopping for pet needs at several retailers is common. Thirty-two percent of dog owners reported shopping at four or more retailers.
  • In the past year, grocery retailers have grown pet food dollars (+5%), while food sales for pet retailers are in decline (-1.7%).
    • This is primarily due to premium brands entering grocery stores, making it more convenient for pet owners to purchase food there and saving them an extra trip.
    • Another contributing factor is that pet food prices at grocery retailers are often comparable or lower than pet retailers.
  • E-commerce is surging with 54% of Millennials purchasing food and supplies for their dogs online in the past year, and 45% of Millennials doing so for their cats.
  • Compared to last year, online pet food sales are increasing but penetration is low at nine percent. Household penetration is down across key brick-and-mortar channels.

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Changing Shopping Behaviors

  • One in five pet owners have changed their buying behaviors to reflect more convenient options.
  • Top reasons for Millennials to change where they shop for their pets include convenience (49%), price (31%) and assortment (17%).
  • Changing brands is more common than changing retailers, and dog owners that shop most often online are least likely to change.

Acosta’s Pets Are Big Business report was compiled using industry data and proprietary information sources including online surveys of the Company’s proprietary shopper community, conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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